Surf Ballroom

Also known as: Surf Ballroom and Museum
460 North Shore Drive Clear Lake , IA 50428

Opened in 1934, Destroyed by fire in 1947, reopened across the street in 1948


West (Front) Elevation

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in May 2021




Everyone who is anyone in the music industry has played The Surf at one time or another. Today, it operates as an IRS 501(c)3 not for profit organization. It continues as a concert and dance venue, but it is also a museum.

The Surf is likely best known as the location of the last appearance of Richie Valens, J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson and Buddy Holly before the three perished in a tragic plane crash on Tuesday February 3, 1959. The date is known as The Day The Music Died from a lyric by Don McLean in his 1971 recording entitled American Pie. Often overlooked is that the pilot, Roger Peterson also perished in the crash.

Each February since 1979, the Surf Ballroom hosts a "Winter Dance Party" tribute show to honor the lives and legacies of the three stars. A street along the east side of the property is named Buddy Holly Place.

Added to the NRHP on September 16, 2011.

Update Log 

  • May 10, 2021: New photos from J.R. Manning
  • December 27, 2018: Added by J.R. Manning


  • J.R. Manning - Lugnuts969 [at] gmail [dot] com